The Moral Elites: A Conceptual Approximation and Research Agenda

Anders Sevelsted*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch


    The paper aims to set out a new research agenda on the 'moral elites' by developing the concept and sketching some methodological implications. I first define three generations of elite scholars (the 'founding fathers', American political sociologists of the 1950s, and 60s and current scholarship) in order to show how current sociological research on elites has focused on the 'power elite' while neglecting the historical and present moral influence of other types of elites on the institutions of society. Building on the research of the three generations, and adding insights from research on the 'axial age', I then flesh out the concept of the moral elites as those groups in society who 1) have disproportionate access to resources of universalist knowledge and 2) manage to articulate moral principles for society based on their claim to knowledge. I further illustrate this conceptualization by analyzing three societal groups that have historically contributed significantly to the moral elites, namely religious elites, professional elites, and political-ideological elites. Through a discussion with certain strands of institutionalism, I then present a theory of the process of articulation through which universalist knowledge is translated into societal principles and institutions. At the end of the paper, some methodological considerations on the operationalization of the concept and its use in Social Network Analysis are presented, based on my work on the early 20th century Danish moral elites.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2019
    Event14th Conference of the European Sociological Association. ESA 2019: Europe and Beyond: Boundaries, Barriers and Belonging - Manchester , United Kingdom
    Duration: 20 Aug 201923 Aug 2019
    Conference number: 14


    Conference14th Conference of the European Sociological Association. ESA 2019
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address

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